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Civic Association holds city candidate forum

By Staff | Jul 24, 2013

It was standing room only at the Yacht Club ballroom as the city’s political candidates met formally for the first time as the Cape Coral Civic Association hosted its first candidate forum.

The purpose of the forum, said association president Ed Prince, was to inform the people about the candidates who knew the issues.

Thus the reason they picked questions from a bowl.

“We wanted to draw away from people thinking we were loading questions for the candidates. We let them pick their own,” Prince said. “That way it becomes educational. People listen to the question instead of if the question is loaded.”

Sometimes the questions presented a levity moment, like a question to Mayor John Sullivan that asked, “What have you done to qualify yourself as mayor?”

“I served for four years,” Sullivan answered.

Other questions really made candidates think about the ins and outs of Cape Coral politics and some handled it better than others.

And the use of time was of the essence, since the candidates had little time to do much more than give brief answers to questions regarding the fire assessment, 20/20 and the old golf course, delved into in more detail.

That was especially true in the District 4 and 6 portion of the forum. With no primary, each candidate picked one question to answer in 45 seconds, with a 30-second rebuttal from the opponent, then a group question, followed by a closing statement.

The District 1 candidates got one question they answered for one minute, followed by a series of yes/no questions which they answered with a paddle, followed by closing statements for a minute.

Only the mayoral candidates got more in depth, with three rounds of questions, followed by a yes/no segment and two minutes for a closing statement.

Moderator Alex LePera kept things moving at a steady pace, thus keeping the packed house attentive.

None of the candidates hit a home run, nor did they spar on a particular topic. There was no time. Still, District 4 candidate Richard Leon thought he did well in his first major event as a candidate.

“I did well. I have great tutors and have learned a lot the last couple years,” Leon said. “I helped my chances. It’s not being up on stage tonight that helped, it’s going to the audience and letting them know who we are personally.”

Following the debate, many of the candidates did just that, while supplying the hungry audience members with cookies, cake and pizza, among other treats. They were also encouraged to take part in the straw poll afterward.

What pleased Prince the most was that the local candidates brought everyone to the Yacht Club, as opposed to the recent forum with state Reps. Dane Eagle and Heather Fitzenhagen, who drew a scant few.

“Local politics draws more attention that state politics because many don’t truly understand what’s going on in Tallahassee,” Prince said.